Category Archives: Development

ReThink: Old Books

Knowledge is power, or so the saying goes. And where does knowledge lay dormant, ready to empower minds to change the world? In books, of course! Better World Books knows that books are a key part of making the world, well, a better place, and they are doing something to make that happen. Starting from a college dorm room (because what worthwhile venture doesn’t have such humble beginnings?), Better World Books has grown to be a powerful force in promoting literacy worldwide. Through reclaiming and selling used books, donating books, recycling worn-out books, donating to literacy advocation programs, and more, the company is making huge strides towards putting books, and knowledge, in the hands of all people. Kind of makes you want to go grab a book, doesn’t it?

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ReThink: Architecture

Architecture has always fascinated people, and fantastic architecture has awed the masses for generations. Yet good design has traditionally been limited to those places that have the means to realize their architectural dreams. Architecture for Humanity wants to change that paradigm. By enlisting the help of thousands of architects, AFH seeks to bring elegant, purposeful, sustainable building design to places that otherwise could not afford such attention to planning and building concept. From the tsunami-devastated villages of Sri Lanka to the slums of Nairobi to the hundreds of soon-to-be-abandoned US military bases around the world, AFH is bringing world-class architecture to reimagine broken, derelict, and abandoned spaces worldwide, serving the manifold needs of people from every walk of life.

ReThink: Shoes (Again)

If every person gave just one thing to someone in need, the world’s needs could be met. This is the motivating idea behind TOMS; while one company cannot meet every need, it can meet one need. TOMS has picked its one thing: shoes. Every pair of TOMS shoes purchased means a child in need receives a pair of shoes. They call it their “One for One” philosophy, and as of September of 2010, one million pairs of shoes have been given to children around the world. Just by changing a pair of shoes, you can help change a child’s life. That’s rethinking!

ReThink: Sewage

In the developed world, we are accustomed to not thinking about what happens after we flush the toilet. In the developing world, “out of sight, out of mind” is an unheard-of phrase; if a toilet exists to be flushed, the resulting effluent often ends up untreated in the local bodies of water. Simple fix, right? Just install a sewage treatment plant and open sewage disappears.

Not exactly. For one thing, sewage treatment plants are not free; they require large capital investments that governments of developing countries are typically not in a position to make. For another, treatment plants require user fees, which we know in the form of our monthly sanitation bill. Such a system of user support is unfeasible in developing countries, where even the postal service is not a guarantee. Treatment plants have been built through philanthropic efforts, but once funding for ongoing operations dries up, so does the waste. As a result, sewage flows freely, untreated and without boundary.

The people at Waste Enterprisers are revisioning sewage, not only its treatment, but more importantly, its economic potential. Conventional wisdom sees sewage as a cost, not as a revenue-generating opportunity. Waste Enterprisers are capitalizing on the energy potential inherent in human waste, developing industrial fuel solutions from an undesirable and diease-spreading byproduct of human life. These fuels, such as biodiesel and coal substitutes, are clean, carbon-neutral alternatives to fossil fuels that benefit people on every level: removing waste from the environment, offering employment in processing the waste into fuel, selling the fuel for profit, and using clean fuel to power other enterprises. Waste, instead of being a costly problem, becomes an incredible opportunity for economic and health development. Since when has poop done so much for you?

ReThink: Microfinance

Most of us have heard of microfinance, which opens the way for entrepreneurs in developing countries to gain access to small amounts of capital. Muhammad Yunus is widely credited with the creation of microfinance through his work in establishing the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1976. The funding for microfinance institutions has traditionally been provided through donor organizations, central banks, and the sale of bonds; however, this paradigm has shifted with the introduction of Kiva. Instead of tapping into traditional capital markets, Kiva connects borrowers with individuals who have extra money to lend, enabling a wealth of new capital to be provided at no additional cost to the borrower. Individual lenders can lend as little as $25 to entrepreneurs across the world, enabling economic growth and development to small business owners otherwise unable to take out a loan from a bank. One loan at a time, lives are being changed around the world.

How Kiva Works from Kiva on Vimeo.

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